Opera Scotland

Lucia di Lammermoor 2016Tayside Opera

Read more about the opera Lucia di Lammermoor

At a time when several of the amateur operatic groups have fallen by the wayside, it is encouraging that Tayside Opera have managed to keep going, albeit in a less ambitious form than before.  For several seasons they have taken a popular work to three separate venues round the region albeit in concert or semi-staged format with around a dozen choristers and piano accompaniment. The 2016 offering is Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, a favourite work they have tackled with great success in the past.

It is to be hoped that the company will continue to survive, as they have always provided a valuable service in a part of the country that is, more than most, an operatic 'dry area'. Another useful factor, true of all the surviving companies, is they provide a training ground for young singers to try out roles.

On this occasion, Tayside had a difficulty they must dread when they are so lightly manned - the spread through the company of a chest infection meant that there were occasional moments of vocal unease. However they coped well in the circumstances - occasionally one or two singers introduced a downward transposition of line, but rarely was there serious damage.

The 'concert version' used was still rather more complete than we used to hear when Donizetti was less admired than he is now. The principal cut was the Wolf's Crag scene, where Edgar and Henry have a slanging match well away from the tragic events unfolding back at the Ashtons' castle. This scene is important, but it makes heavy demands on the singers, and when the tenor is very young and the baritone's voice on the light side, the cut was understandable.

There was some excellent singing from Moira Docherty as Lucy and Ian McBain as Edgar. The mad scene went sweetly from the start, and the final suicide, which can seem to drag, was also well delivered. They were particularly well supported by Russell Malcolm and Barbara Scott as Raimondo and Alisa. His entry to disturb the festivities and break the dire tidings was quite impressive. The other voices were on the light side, even when they sang well. Only one solo was badly affected by indisposition.

The Dundee venue, the University Chaplaincy, had not been used in this way before, and the experiment was not entirely successful. The piano, an excellent instrument well played by Robert Duncan, was at one side, the chorus diagonally opposite. The attentive conductor, Richard Johnston, was centrally placed, with the piano to his right, the chorus in front to the left and the principals' playing area straight ahead. The audience was split into two segments. Lighting was unhelpful, sometimes dazzling the viewers while keeping the performers' faces in shadow. Perhaps a more conventional concert arrangement would have worked better. As it was, the sound became indistinct and words were lost in the big ensembles, especially the Sextet and subsequent finale. The solos, by contrast, were much clearer.

In all, it was good to see Tayside Opera maintaining its record of enthusiastic performance, giving a generally enjoyable account of one of the greatest operas in the bel canto style. They have a platform from which they may rebuild the quality of company this region so badly needs. And in Ian McBain, still a student at the Conservatoire in Glasgow, they have a highly promising tenor demonstrating a natural feel for this style of music.

Performance Cast

Normanno the Ashtons' forester

Michael Jamieson

Enrico Lord Henry Ashton

Alister Allan

Raimondo Bide the Bent, the Ashtons' chaplain

Russell Malcolm

Lucia Lucy Ashton, Henry's Sister

Moira Docherty (May 20, 22)

Frances Taylor (May 21)

Alisa Ailsa, Lucy's companion

Barbara Scott

Edgardo Edgar, the Master of Ravenswood

Ian McBain

Arturo Lord Arthur Bucklaw

Andreas Ottenberg

Production Cast

Conductor

Richard Johnstone

Performance DatesLucia di Lammermoor 2016

Map List

Perth Oasis | Perth

20 May, 19.30

Mechanics' Institute, Brechin | Brechin, Angus

21 May, 19.30

Chaplaincy Centre, Dundee | Dundee

22 May, 19.30

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